Disappointed wind lobby in Switzerland -- Liberalisation abandoned

Swiss voters have rejected government proposals to liberalise the country's energy market. The vote is a "disappointment for the wind branch and for the whole renewables sector," says Robert Horbaty, director of the Swiss wind power association, Suisse Eole.

Uncertainty prompted 52.6% of the country's voters to throw out the electricity market law, Elektrizitätsmarktgesetz (EMG), which would have eliminated the monopoly status of electricity utilities and opened up the market to competition. "There is no way Switzerland can really avoid energy market liberalisation. Now it's all just going to happen without a regulator. The EMG would have made planning so much easier," says Horbaty.

The renewables sector would have benefited substantially under the law, he says. Wind generators, selling directly to customers, would have been exempt from network charges of EUR 0.06-0.10/kWh for ten years while qualifying for a generous EUR 0.10/kWh tariff. The EMG also required the source of all energy products to be clearly labelled, another benefit says Horbaty. By throwing out the law Swiss consumers have lost the opportunity to shop outside their own cantons for power.

The disappointment in the renewables sector is echoed by politicians and the conventional energy sector. "The vote leaves the country with no clear guidelines for future energy supply," adds Rudolf Steiner of the Swiss energy industry association. "Soon, markets all around Switzerland will be opened up and we're going to be in a difficult situation, stuck in the middle."

The liberalisation of the Swiss market is a mess, according to Social Democratic parliamentarian Rudolf Rechsteiner. "There is a small possibility that the Swiss ministry for justice or the competition office will open the market at least for big consumers, he says. "Small consumers will not be able to get cheap green power anytime soon."

Meanwhile, Swiss Eole has initiated the Charta COM-EOLE, a petition in favour of a "gentle increase in wind energy." Prominent Swiss politicians, artists and members of the banking and business community are being asked to support the petition. "We face so much opposition whenever we want to build a turbine that exceeds 60 metres in height. We need public support," Horbaty says. Just one turbine has gone online in Switzerland this year. The country has 6 MW of wind power.

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